I feel a bit nervous about going into Pop Boutique, even though the branch in my home town of Leeds is not the site of the experience that haunts me. I went for a job interview in the Covent Garden branch back in my undergrad days, and failed miserably. I was 19 or 20, green as, and absolutely sure I would get it. I was however not really a paragon of Vintage then, and never really have been totally on the nose with the whole thing: I was wearing a Top Shop stripy 70s style jumper and brown Top Shop cords, and a pretty groovy burnt orange second hand Dot Cotton style 70s dress coat, bought I think, in The Emporium (now sadly closed) Greenwich – small kudos there. I had bunches in my hair, and a stupid but hilarious cats head ring from what was then called Bobangles; I was no fashionista, not worthy to represent true retro style, more a Bis fan…. who had maxed out student loan instalments on the High Street. I remember standing in the shop, dry throated, enthralled at the stylistic superiority of my interviewers and awed my own dearth of real experience, and definite lack of covent garden shop assistant ‘attitude’.
I found myself in Pop Boutique Leeds today, aged 34.5. I had cased the joint on a number of occasions. And once before, shortly after having Frida, tried to squeeze myself into a purple polyester 1960s sun dress – the fabric blanched across my breast feeding bosom, the floppy hem skimmed my fat pocked thighs. Fun times. I went prepared this time: dressed as nicely as I can muster these days, trying to mentally adjust to accepting and embracing my body (‘riots not diets’ Alix!). I found a nice selection of hardly worn 1970s shirts: long pointy collars, juggler sleeves, boxy. I gathered up about seven items, including a lovely long paisley printed skirt, avoided eye contact to the way cool shop staff (one a mod with impeccably blow dried hair, the other an replicant of several of my Telford Greebo friends from 1996). The elastic on the skirt was fucked, even before (honestly!) I put it on – I sighed at the ravages of time. A green early 60s shift I picked up clearly had sweat marks in the armholes. The sleeves on one of the impeccable 70s shirts were just a bit too wild for me. I did buy a lovely emerald green 70s shirt with little racing horses on, just the right amount of sleeve, and unfortunately a faint whiff of BO. A risk, but it seems to be cotton so I think it will come out – reaching for my sprayable soda crystals right now.
I then thought about how I had aged, and how the remaining vintage has aged – misshapen, tired out, less elastic, showing signs of wear, slightly too ‘of its time’. Me, lumpier, more lined but pretty realistic about my likelihood of being employed in a place like Pop Boutique. This vintage, what remains now is not infinite, what is left is what no-one else has wanted. Slim pickings. But all the more fun when you find a gem.